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CAPE TOWN – Contrary to popular belief, volumes in the C-segment hatchback market are skewed towards mid- and high-spec models instead of entry-level, cheaper derivatives. So says Toyota, at least, which explains its decision to rationalise its local hatch line-up by introducing just three models spanning one engine choice and two transmission variants across two generously specced trim grades. It ditches the Auris name after two generations, too, adopting the iconic Corolla nameplate for the first time locally on a five-door model since the 1990s.

On the local launch in Cape Town and the Winelands, we had a chance to drive the entry-level 1,2T Xs manual, plus the flagship 1,2T Xr CVT, and both were hugely impressive. Volkswagen Golf-impressive? Read on…

The range and spec

Starting at R336 800 for the manual, rising to R347 400 for the Xs CVT and peaking with the Xr CVT at R367 100, the new Corolla Hatch directly targets the Golf 1,0 TSI Comfortline on price and undercuts the 1,4 TSI Comfortline DSG. I’m curious to see what Ford SA does with upcoming Focus pricing, although I suspect its 1,0 EcoBoost variants will be a touch cheaper than these two.

While it would appear unwise to price your new competitor on par with the class-leader, Toyota has equipped the Corolla to a higher level than the Golf. Items such as LED headlamps, automatic climate control, a rear-view camera and keyless entry and start are standard on the Japanese hatch’s Xs grade and extra-cost options for the German. The Xr adds sport seats trimmed in Alcantara and cloth, stitched coverings on the door cards and facia, seat heating and blind-spot monitoring. All models run on 16-inch alloys wrapped in plump eco tyres.

Striking design

But it doesn’t have only strong spec to boost its case; the design is rather striking, too. A rarity on new cars, the front and rear lights echo the same design theme, while curated swathes along the flanks give the Corolla a multi-dimensionality on the move missing from its more straight-laced rivals. Sure, the 16-inch wheels look feeble in their arches but I’d happily sacrifice inches for comfort.

The interior, meanwhile, is a touch more restrained but leaves an indelible impression of quality. I’d wager this is the best-finished cabin in the class alongside the Golf’s. There’s a uniformity to the material choices that isn’t always a given in a Japanese car’s cabin, plus the panels don’t deflect unduly under prodding and I couldn’t detect a single rattle or peep on the two vehicles we drove during the launch. Really impressive stuff.

Space is good, too – my 1,85-metre could fit behind my driving position without much hardship – and headroom’s sufficient all round. The 294-litre boot, unfortunately, is at the smaller end of the scale to accommodate a full-size spare wheel.

Happily, Toyota has retained analogue controls for the climate-control system and they’re easy to use on the move (although the supplementary display might be a touch too small for those occupants lacking 20:20 vision). There’s the latest evolution of the brand’s touchscreen infotainment system, too, and it’s equally simple to navigate. Note that satellite navigation isn’t offered, nor is smartphone-mirroring for the first few months of retail.

Under the bonnet

CAR’s team adores Toyota’s 1,2-litre turbopetrol engine and it’s great to find it in another product aside from the C-HR. Offering a linear delivery from 1 500 r/min, impressive punch mid-range considering its modest displacement, and cultured manners even when approaching the red line, it’s a great example of a small turbocharged engine. It’s nicely frugal, too; we registered in the mid-sevens on our long launch drive. I suspect that reading could be lowered to a figure starting with a six when the car is driven conservatively.

And on the road

Perhaps the most impressive part of the new Corolla Hatch is its driving habits. I was genuinely impressed with how composed and comfortable the TNGA platform is (it serves in the Prius and C-HR, too). There’s absorbency to spare in the suspension, even on nuggety gravel roads like the ones we drove on the launch, but not at the expense of composure. The Hatch leans progressively in corners, steers cleanly and has a consistency to the weighting of its controls – the manual’s shift quality is sublime – that reminds me once again of its German rival. It certainly feels like a chassis that could take more power, which it will get in an upcoming GR variant (that’s as much as Toyota’s communications department was willing to divulge).

So, better than a Golf?

Perhaps not quite, but near as dammit. The Volkswagen has the edge in terms of space utilisation and rolling refinement, but the Toyota isn’t far behind in these disciplines while adding better spec, a brilliant little turbopetrol engine and a great design. Although Toyota’s decision to return the revered Corolla name to a five-door may bolster the Hatch’s chances in a segment under threat from crossovers, it doesn’t need it; the Corolla Hatch deserves to succeed because it’s great. Simple as that.
Long-term test (Introduction): Toyota Corolla Hatch 1,2 Xr CVT

The Toyota Corolla Hatch is a massive switch for me [sorry, Pete – editor]. I’ve driven long-term bakkies for about five years now and have made them work hard. Now that my weekend workload has eased off, it’s a pleasure to slide into a midsize hatch instead of climbing up and into 4x4s. Although I do miss the extra visibility from sitting high, the nippiness and ease of parking is a joy. I also have an affinity for the CH-R which is rather similar to the Corolla Hatch thanks to its shared drivetrain and platform. 

Talking of styling, this is very much in the eye of the beholder, so my feelings that the Corolla Hatch’s design is a touch too fussy is probably not shared by many others. The colour of our test unit is Oxide Bronze, an unusual hue which helps to hide some of the more unusual curves and lines. 

Inside, it’s a revelation for Toyota. The seat design on Xr models is sporty and well bolstered, with a grippy suede surface surrounded by leather. The steering wheel and gearlever are finished in 

leather and the instrumentation and controls all look and feel up- market. The touchscreen is within easy reach except for one of the rotary knobs. Thankfully, the volume wheel is closest to the driver, something seldom found in our right-hand-drive market. Apart from the touch-and-swipe screen, there are four buttons on either side for important functions. Below is another array of switches for the dual-zone climate control. The steering column is adjustable for rake and reach, and there is an informative and attractive trip-computer display which gives instant and average consumption, range to empty, outside temperature, odo and so on. 

The steering is electrically assisted. It feels light but stiffens up when the sport button is pressed, which also increases the revs of the engine when making enthusiastic use of the throttle. The continuously variable transmission has 10 steps, which are too many because the torquey 1,2-litre doesn’t need it. For manual shifting, you use the gearlever and the engine speed hardly drops between changes. Still, it works well and is possibly more economical than opting for the six-speed manual Xs model (tested in the June 2019 issue), where you will have to do a lot more on-and- off-the-throttle action. 

Standard spec is generous, and I look forward to exploring these features in future updates.

After 1 month
Current Mileage:
 820 km
Average fuel consumption: 
7,91 L/100 km
We like: 
upmarket interior; sporty seats; full-size alloy spare
We don’t like: 
smallish boot due to large spare wheel

 

Long-term test (Update 1): Toyota Corolla Hatch 1,2 Xr CVT

It hasn’t taken long to really start enjoying the Hatch. The ease of operation, comfort, good quality audio and controls combine to make short and long trips pleasurable. On the West Coast’s R27 road, where motorists stick to enforced speeds between 100 and 120 km/h, the cruise control comes in handy. With the big-screen display of fuel consumption plus a multi-coloured smaller display in the main instruments, it becomes an incentive to reduce fuel consumption. So far, this has worked well: the consumption figure has dropped from more than 8,0 L/100 km to 7,45. 

 After 2 months
Current Mileage:
 2 463 km
Average fuel consumption: 
7,45 L/100 km

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather bolster spartial leather: Standard
  • Leather upholstery: partial suede-cloth + leather
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: 2
  • Lumbar support adjustment: driver electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Heated ventilated seats: front heated
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Driver knee airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 7
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front
  • Central locking: keyless
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: rear camera
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 820 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: V
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: CVT
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 205/55 R16
  • Reartyres: 205/55 R16
  • Spare wheel size full: Standard
  • Length: 4375 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1790 mm
  • Height: 1435 mm
  • Wheel base: 2640 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 140 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 10.2 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 503 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1395 kg
  • Gross weight (GVM): 1840 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 450
  • Towing capacity - braked: 1300
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 50l
  • Fuel consumption average: 6.1 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 140g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: Euro 6
  • Power maximum: 85 kW
  • Power maximum total: 85 kW
  • Power peak revs: 5200-5600 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 60.9 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 185 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1500-4000 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 185 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 133 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 10.4s
  • Maximum top speed: 190 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1197 cc
  • Engine size: 1.2l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.2T
  • Engine + detail: 1.2 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Variable camvalve timing: Standard
  • Variable valvelift: Standard
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 3
  • Warranty distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 6 services
  • Service plan time (distance): 90000 km
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Toyota
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 60027910
  • MMVariant: COROLLA 1.2T XR CVT (5DR)
  • MMintrodat: 2019-02-18
  • Introdate: 2019-02-14
  • DuoportarecordID: ToyoCoro7h3

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